There is something to be said about a leader who can make lasting changes to a community while still facing every day with humility. Ted Faulkner, Student Affairs’ assistant vice president for dining, housing, and student centers, will retire in December. After a professional journey that spans over 45 years, Faulkner brims with wisdom and relatable anecdotes, and his career is indicative of service to others and professional growth. 

Throughout his journey at Virginia Tech, he continued to learn and receive accolades for his passion toward the Hokie community. This passion led him to oversee the opening of six new dining locations, the updating and refreshing of multiple dining areas, the opening of Turner Place at Lavery Hall, and new sustainability efforts. In his role as assistant vice president, Faulkner continued to provide exceptional service to the students in various ways.  

“Throughout Ted’s career he has always put the student experience first. Ted and Dining Services take student feedback seriously, and I have observed countless examples of where Ted and the team have used student feedback to enhance services,” said Frances Keene, vice president for Student Affairs, "His commitment to the success of students through their nourishment is something that truly highlights his remarkable career. Ted has made dining services at Virginia Tech truly more than just food on a plate.”   

Before graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in hotel restaurant institutional management, now known as hospitality and tourism management, Faulkner worked for 10 years as a bartender and had already completed a two-year degree. 

“My original intent was to just get a degree. I have always worked in food service, being a bartender, a waiter, and a bar assistant. I worked in a country club in a hospitality role,” he said. “I thought that I should study something in food service.” 

Faulkner’s early professional years helped him develop social skills, learn to read body language, and develop a steadfastness for situational awareness. It also enhanced his memory and ability to work with numbers. 

After he finished the requirements for his degree, Faulkner started to work for the Blacksburg Marriott in 1985. Once he moved to the Marriott, he continued bartending, serving thousands of guests, and further honing his hospitality and leadership skills. In 1990, Faulkner moved up as beverage director for the Mariott. During his time, the Blacksburg Marriott started being recognized for its exemplary service and positive guest feedback. That led to him being offered a position working on a task force for the hotel, through which he would travel and help other locations with some of the practices they developed and put in place.

In 1998, Faulkner took an opportunity to work at Virginia Tech.  

Ted Faulkner stands in front of crops at one of Virginia Tech's farms.

Ted Faulkner stands in front of crops at one of Virginia Tech's farms.
Ted Faulkner stands in front of crops at one of Virginia Tech's farms. Virginia Tech photo

Coming from a hospitality background, Faulkner understands the significant impact and nuance that food and dining has on an individual’s life and more specifically, students' lives. Food is personal, and as Faulkner will point out, all the senses are engaged — from the moment of being greeted at the door to the first taste of an entrée. Making sure that every student is taken care of quickly and efficiently has always been at the core of Faulkner’s mission.

“Students need to eat every day – multiple times a day. If you do the math, they can have over 400 experiences or interactions with Dining Services throughout the semester,” Faulkner said, “We help students thrive and be the best in their fields by providing them with what they need while they are here.”   

This care for the well-being of the students and Hokie community is what has led Faulkner to accomplish so much in his career. Outside of Dining Services, Faulkner also provided leadership for the establishment and implementation of organizational goals, objectives, strategic plans, policies, and operational procedures – all for the benefit of the student. 

“Ted has an ethic of care that is unparalleled. He is emboldened to create positive change for our students. He is a leader who stands firmly by his convictions,” said Heather Wagoner, director for Student Engagement and Campus Life, “It is the way Ted cares for people and the way he starts from the ground up when building a plan that is embedded in all he has created during his time at Virginia Tech.” 

Ted Faulkner showcases a dish at a special event.

Ted Faulkner showcases a dish at a special event.
Ted Faulkner showcases a dish at a special event. Virginia Tech photo

During Faulkner’s time with Dining Services, he worked with over 31,000 different team members, many them student workers. Those who know Faulkner and his ideals realize that he is not one to take sole credit. Knowing the importance of working with a team to accomplish goals, Faulkner would always share that teamwork and drive were behind much of his success. 

“Ted has been a champion for the Virginia Tech students and the Dining Services employees and is always looking at what is right for both constituents. He has been instrumental in ensuring staff had what they needed to grow professionally,” said Brian Grove, senior associate director of Dining Services. “He is leaving behind a rich legacy, which the dining team will aspire to continue once he exits at the end of the year.”

In 25 years of working with Virginia Tech, Faulkner calculates that he and Dining Services have provided over 136 million unique guest experiences – experiences in this case referring to transactions made by students on campus, students off campus, parents, staff, faculty, and any other member of the Hokie community. 

“My commitment to this institution is so strong. Virginia Tech Dining Services is contributing to the overall university mission - it is not just food on a plate,” said Faulkner. “I believe in what we have created and what we will continue to create.” 

A national search for the assistant vice president for housing, dining, and student centers will launch later this fall. In addition to his current portfolio, James Bridgeforth, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and Experience VT will provide interim leadership until the search is complete.

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